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McLeish resignation Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 22:56 GMT
NUJ and newspaper lock horns
Wishaw Press
The Wishaw Press said the situation was resolved
The National Union of Journalists and the Wishaw Press newspaper have locked horns over allegations concerning Scotland's first minister-elect.

The NUJ claim that Jack McConnell demanded that a reporter from the paper submit all copy to him to be vetted.

The alleged move followed a story about MSPs' allowances in the 17 October edition of the local paper.

Responding to the claims, the paper issued a statement accepting that the article may not have been clear, and as such a subsequent article removed any ambiguity.

Wishaw Press
The NUJ and the Wishaw Press gave contrasting views

However, the NUJ Wishaw Press Chapel said journalists at the paper were "horrified at the statement" and maintained they had done nothing wrong.

Mr McConnell, the current education minister and Scottish Labour leader, is expected to be voted in as the new first minister.

The Labour leader will face what is largely thought to be a symbolic challenge from Scottish national Party leader John Swinney, Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie and Independent MSP Dennis Canavan.

NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran said Mr McConnell had called the deputy editor of the paper into his office and insisted that all future stories by the reporter involved be seen by him in advance.

Letter of complaint

Mr Holleran was giving evidence to MSPs at the parliament's justice committee.

In a statement the Wishaw Press said: "The Wishaw Press stands by its story from 17 October but accepts that the headline and picture captions did not make it clear that the figures refereed to Lanarkshire MSPs total allowances.

"Jack McConnell wrote to complain about this and we were happy to publish another story on October 24 - with a full breakdown of MSPs allowances, which clarify the issue.

"In the interests of accuracy the detail in the second story was confirmed verbally with Jack McConnell's office.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: First Minister vote on Thursday

"This is not unusual in this kind of situation. The Wishaw Press would refute any allegation that it was placed under undue pressure to publish the second story."

However, the NUJ Chapel at the Wishaw Press said the journalists employed at the paper were "horrified" by the statement.

The NUJ said the journalists did not accept there was anything wrong with the headline or the captions.

"A member of the Chapel instigated a grievance procedure when she learned that the copy of the second story was read by Jack McConnell before publication," the NUJ said.

"This is not acceptable to any journalist and against the NUJ Code of Conduct. This was done by the editor following a series of phone calls from Jack McConnell.

"However, our main concern is that our bosses would refute the allegation that there was pressure to publish this story - that is not true."

If there had not been any pressure the NUJ would not have become involved it added.

The NUJ said that only Mr McConnell and one other MSP offered opposition.


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21 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
20 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
18 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
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